Equal parenting during lockdown
How Covid-19 is Giving Fathers What they Want, and We’re so Happy about It
“I’ve loved sitting down and having breakfast and chats with my kids every morning because I don’t have to leave early to get to the office. Most days we also go for a quick bike ride around the neighborhood before dinner, and I’ve never felt such a connection with them both before”.
This is just one of many wonderful stories I’ve heard from dads building stronger relationships with their children ever since lockdown began. Stories of spending time with them every morning, stories of getting up early to work and then playing with them for the rest of the day, stories of bear hunts and books on the sofa and building forts and doing schoolwork and baking together, stories of really appreciating watching them grow, and stories of understanding what life at home with children is really like.
And although this virus has brought a lot of pain for many, this is one thing that has me jumping for joy (along with these dads).
Research shows that fathers really do want to be a larger part of their children’s lives, and I think Covid-19 might be the ‘’break’’ we’ve all been waiting for to allow this to happen. Families being stuck at home, with many having to balance work and parenting, has meant that social norms and stigma have gone out the window, and many dads have reaped the benefits of spending more time with their children.
And it’s not just good because it’s what dads want to do. This subject has been studied a lot, and what shows up again and again, is that when dads (in two-parent hetero families) spend more time with their kids their relationships with them improve, their relationships with their partners improve (including their sex lives), and the more satisfied dads are with their lives. Plus it’s not just dads who get the benefits, as research also reveals that children get some great outcomes too. It’s also good for mothers’ health and careers, it’s good for gender equality, and it’s good for the economy. It even reduces domestic violence rates. And children model their parents, so if they grow up having their dads hanging out with them, taking care of them, and sharing the responsibilities in the home, that will have a positive impact on how they view the world and behave in their future relationships.
In countries like Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, fathers are incentivised to care for their children. In Sweden, fathers receive 90 days of parental leave, and they’re looked down upon if they don’t take it. In Germany, there is a bonus system, whereby if both parents claim at least two months of parental leave, they get another two months of paid leave. It is normal for couples to equally share parenting and household work, and fathers get to spend more time seeing their children grow up. The rest of the world has taken way too long to catch up, and it’s taken a worldwide pandemic to make any traction.
So once this virus is over, let’s make it possible for fathers to continue being a bigger part of their children’s lives. Let's not have this as something that only existed during Covid-19, but something that continues permanently. Let’s focus on all the benefits that come with this, and get rid of the social norms and prehistoric ideas around gender, parenting, and work. Let’s make it normal for fathers to take parental leave, for them to work part time, to work flexible hours, or be full-time carers for their children. Let’s help create a world where they don’t need to worry about being judged for wanting to look after their kids. As it’s not just good for them, it’s good for everyone.